When Friends of the Homeless began in 2013, our office was located in SW Baltimore, where there was no shortage of homeless cats. Children in the area would tell us that kids would bring kittens to school to giveaway, parents would say they could keep the cats, and the next thing you know, the cats were put out when they became pregnant to become a challenge for the community to solve. Here's how you can actually resolve this problem!
~ Contact your local animal services ~ Most cities and counties in the U.S., have animal services, like the SPCA or the Humane Society, an animal shelter or rescue, Animal control, 3-1-1 or 2-1-1 may be able to help provide you with their contact information.
~ Partner with other organizations and look into discounted spay/neuter options ~ In Baltimore, BARCS (Baltimore Animal and Rescue Care Shelter) and the SPCA offer free spay/neuter services. You can borrow carrier-traps from them to transport the cats to and from the appointments. Some veterinarians in the area offer discounted spay/neuter programs as well.
~ Get your neighbors to help while building community ~ Our area was transformed a little bit at a time. When we first arrived at our office, seniors were indifferent to the cats, some were actually harmful trapping them and removing them to no one knew where, kids would scream at them out of fear, and we were the only ones known to be helping resolve the problem at all. It took time to model to the neighbors that stray cats could be socialized and could become good companions and service pets for lonely seniors and others in need of support in the community. And it took time for others to follow our lead and begin to care for the cats themselves. From 2013 to 2020, we helped 100 cats to be spayed/neutered, cared for, and found permanent homes in areas where they are now safe and cared for! Inviting others to join you can also build community, unify people towards a common purpose, and teach people how to be an advocate for themselves and others.
~ Let others know about free spay/neuter programs ~ If you're going to solve the problem of overpopulation, it will be because of 2 factors ~ 1. You've gotten the current strays spayed/neutered promptly, and 2. You've been routinely sharing and promoting the free spay/neuter and transportation services for this in your community. Below are flyers that we created on from existing BARCS flyers and then shared each quarter with our local schools, churches, community centers, libraries, neighbors, on NextDoor, through social media, and every other outlet that we could think of!
Animal shelters in your community may already have flyers that you can get freely from them to distribute ~ they will be appreciative for your help in distributing them! So these easiest way is to get pre-made flyers that will have all of the important information, like: why it's important to get stray cats fixed (and how quickly they can reproduce and lead to over-population), which organizations in your community provide free or discount spay/neuter services, the benefits of spay/neutering animals, and who to contact. Through an online search, we discovered that in Baltimore, there is an organization called Charm City Companions that has grants to offer free transportation to residents for the spay/neuter program. Please check with your local agencies to see what services are provided in your area
If you take this approach, you may be able to also get similar outcomes like these we've gotten!
~ Help low-income families to know how to find and get free spay/neuter services for their pets
~ Help seniors and people with disabilities and health challenges a rescued and socialized service pet
~ Help teenagers and young people to hold their first volunteer position and become a reference for them to support their academic goals in community service and their career goals by offering their first letter of recommendation
~ Help children and others in the community to see the value in these previously unvalued and untended sentient beings, which can reflect the value in themselves as well
~ Help to ease community members minds by helping low-income families to get care for cats they're helping when they're not able to afford it ~ BARCS would often let us bring sick or dying cats to them and offer free vet services. This was of great comfort and relief to community members.